Each space will cost between $10,000 and $12,000
By Aimee Eaton
Despite nearly an hour of testimony against the project, the Mt. Crested Butte Town Council decided last week to move ahead with the development of a 150-space surface parking lot to be located north of the Nordic Inn on Treasury Road.
The parking lot is part of a larger planned unit development (PUD) proposal that includes the rezoning of several lots owned by the Nordic Inn for future development and business growth. While the PUD would increase the Nordic Inn from its current 28 rooms to 120 rooms, the parking lot was the only contentious aspect of the plan.
Part of the opposition seemed to stem from the town’s purchase of the land for the parking lot from the owners of the Nordic Inn several months ago. The sale would make the lot town parking, but also created a situation where Town Council is the deciding vote on whether the PUD proposal is appropriate. This created a perceived conflict of interest for members of the community.
“I understood where the town was coming from with the Biery Witt building and the need for parking,” said Mt. Crested Butte community member and potential neighbor to the parking lot Steve Mayberry. “My understanding is the BWC would have displaced 149 parking spots and this would provide 150. Do we really need 300 parking spots? How can the town have a vested interest in this working? What I’m seeing is the town saying bring us a PUD with our own interest.”
The decision to move forward with the lot was based largely on recommendations from the town Planning Commission, the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and town staff. It was suggested that if the lot is left undeveloped, parking is going to become an increasing problem for the town and without adequate parking commerce would suffer.
This argument was underlined by the uncertainty surrounding the so-called Snowmass parking lot, a 160-space lot located south of the Plaza Condominiums on Snowmass Road.
“When it was first formed, the DDA identified parking as the number one concern facing the commercial area,” DDA chairperson Gary Keiser told the council at its January 16 meeting. “There is no reason to believe the lease for the Snowmass lot won’t be extended, but there is also no reason to believe it will be. It holds 160 spaces and 50 percent of the time the lot is full. The Rasta lot is full 25 percent of the time. The existing parking garage is dedicated to the Grand Lodge. We looked at building a two-story structure on top of that for $6 million for 200 spots. That’s $30,000 per spot.
“This is a long-term solution,” Keiser continued. “More parking is going to be needed at some point. This option is for $10,000 to $12,000 a space, including the land, which is significantly less than other options.”
Community-voiced problems with the parking lot were varied, but focused on three primary issues: changes to the character or the neighborhood; safety, especially along Emmons Road and the entrance of the proposed parking lot; and landscaping.
“I’m opposed to the parking lot in its entirety,” said Mt. Crested Butte resident Michael Blunck. “My biggest concern is safety. Coming downhill, it’s about a 90-degree angle right-hand turn and in the winter, it’s blind coming into what will be the exit of the parking lot. The traffic study suggested widening the road… the road wasn’t designed for 150 more cars and more roadwork will be needed. Ponderosa driveways are right across from the entrance and are driven by people who do not drive in snow. It’s an accident waiting to happen. It’s up to you if you want to deal with the liability.”
Tim Greydanus owns the property at 26 Treasury Road, which is directly adjacent to the proposed lot. Greydanus told the council that he is most concerned about the shift the parking lot could have on the neighborhood.
“When we bought the property we liked that it was close to the base area but we also knew that there was going to be some more noise, traffic, etc.,” he said. “The plan was for a transition from base area to residential area. Transition is an important piece of the Nordic project. This could be done through landscaping, berms, or other options. We hope that there is an opportunity in the plan to provide some buffering and some transitioning that the original people who laid out these plats intended.”
Several members of the community voiced concern over the Planning Commission’s decision to eliminate landscaping from the parking lot. Councilperson Janet Farmer agreed with the sentiment.
“Landscaping should definitely be a part of this,” said Farmer. “I have a major problem with the section that says to do away with the landscaping. … When we first started looking at this, I felt we had to do something for the Performing Arts Center, now I’m not sure it’s necessary. I don’t have a problem with what the Nordic wants to do in terms of its expansion and growth, but I am not comfortable with this parking lot.”
Town community development director Carlos Velado responded to Farmer’s concerns over landscaping, but said he could not weigh in on whether the town should move forward with the lot.
“There’s a DDA requirement that says one tree for every three stalls,” said Velado. “We were really looking at that in terms of snow removal. No one wants islands of trees that will be in the way of snow removal or getting destroyed by snow. I can’t speak for the Planning Commission, but I would be surprised if they would be opposed to landscaping for appearance.”
The Town Council voted to approve the PUD application with recommendations. Specifically, council members requested additional planning be put toward landscaping and examining potential safety issues with the entrance and exit to the lot.
There will be another public hearing before the Planning Commission for discussion of PUD Final Plan on February 21.